Saturday, February 23, 2013

February 23, 2013

Nothing like a little snowfall to make us long for Spring. Yes, we actually had some snow this week. And yes, we're all ready for Spring. Just look at our paintings—we may start out with seasonal women (Elaine T's Rocky Horror Halloween show opener, Sara's statuesque Christmas celebrant and Tony's bride-to-be), but we quickly move to sunny landscapes, verdant greens and lush flowers. But let's not spend a lot of time chatting. There are so many wonderful paintings ahead.

And when all is done, when you've seen Tony's exercise eggs, Ken's plaids and Ellen's lively dry brush landscapes and seascapes, you can see more experimentations with gum arabic—yes, Vivian has joined the gum arabic club! You'll see the results and and hear some of the conclusions we've come to.

Here's fair warning—we only have one more class and we'll be off for a month. But that doesn't mean a stop to the fun! We'll list a few activities at the end where you can see us, hear us or sketch with us. Grab a pencil and be prepared to mark your calendars.

Let's begin.

Gum Arabic update. Yes, we have another member of the gum arabic club—Vivian's now one of us! What that means is that we have a third opinion. In the gull painting below, she used a fairly heavy concentration of gum arabic on the bird and reports that it made the paint feel sticky and viscous. The second picture below is a side view of the gull. It's completely dry. Yet notice how shiny the paint is when mixed with gum arabic? Probably the most dramatic demonstration of the gloss this adds to watercolor.
Moving to the last painting, we see the final result of Elaine O's baby portrait paint-off. The baby on the right is done with gum arabic; the baby on the left without. Notice how the brush strokes stand out? The paint doesn't move or blend as well as the non-G.A. side. It's also deeper and richer. The non-G.A. baby took two or more layers to achieve the same saturation as one stroke with gum arabic.
Some observations: Gum arabic seems best suited to a painting style or subject that's loose and definite—one where the artist goes in boldly with intent, where each brush stroke is well thought out and matters. It's not conducive to a style that relies on many layers and glazes to slowly build a subject.
Using it makes the paint stickier and less fluid. The stokes are bolder and brighter; yet they lift more easily, too. And after the painting dries, gum arabic leaves a gloss that ranges from a soft sheen to a varnish like shine. Not for every painting, but definitely a tool worth knowing!

Save the Dates:

Spring break sketch party—You're invited! While we're on spring break, we plan to casually meet for some sketching beginning on Saturday, March 9. It's too cold for cemetery sketching, so we'll meet at 10am inside the Lincoln Park Conservatory (where we know the horticulturist). We'll sketch and share and have a great time. Imagine how good we'll be after a month of Saturdays? If not, at least we'll have had a great time! Join us!
March 16—Catch Elaine T. and Midnight Madness at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Tickets are $10 and the show begins at midnight at the Music Box theater (pre-show activities begin at 11:30). For more information, go to their website.
March 17—Hear Steve M. and the DePaul Community Chorus at their spring concert: Mozart–Great Mass in C Minor. It's beautiful, uplifting and FREE! Learn more here.
See you next week.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

February 16, 2013

Happy Valentines Day!

After that, you'd think we have tons of flowers or candy to show you, but it looks like the only topical paintings come from Elaine T today. She starts us out with lovely roses and moves to an icy winter scene—to memorialize today's weather. After two weeks of sauna-like conditions in our studio, today was positively frigid. Just when we got used to dressing in summery layers, too!

And then we get to the subject of the day—couples. From baby and toddler diptychs to engaged couples, statuesque women and the boys of summer, we're all about people. Except when we're painting fruits, vegetables and ballpark food or butterflies and abstracts. Finishing up with Mark's get well card—in case you've overindulged on the chocolate hearts!

What's the art note today? Let's discuss color—blending, mingling, merging colors. It's one of the things watercolor does best. In fact, when done right, the water does half the work. But there's the catch—it has to be done right! Watercolor is basically pigment, paper and water. But it takes a lot of skill and artistry to know how to manipulate those three elements (especially the paint and water) to create a painting. Let's look at this example. Greeta has painted some simple fruit. How easy is that? Not even a background. Even so...the lush, shiny fruits...the sensual, light-drenched can't take your eyes off these, can you?
I inserted it again so you can get a better look. Notice the sharp, clean edges on the highlights and how they add sparkle and shine. See how she's dropped rich deep color into wet shapes and let the colors softly mingle. Same for the shadows. Look how the colors chosen beautifully reflect the light hitting the fruit above, along with the color of the fruit itself. See the value changes and how they give dimension to round shapes and define the shadows. This one's worth examining closely to see how a fine artist handles three simple elements (paper, paint and water) and a simple subject to make lovely art you can lose yourself in.
See you next week!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

February 9, 2013

Today, we remember our Groundhog day blizzard of a few years ago and our thoughts go out to our East Coast brethren. Here, it's bright and sunny, albeit cold with snowy, icy pavements. Can't complain, though!

Can't complain about our morning painting, either. There were some truly breathtaking paintings today, from the blues of Hawaiian waters and Greco/Roman skies to lettuce fields, people, Montrose Harbor and door wreaths. We saw children, street lights sparkling on snowy trees, rich plaids—and even dried apricots.

Unfortunately, you won't get to see all of them in our scrolling showtime list. Elaine O. had new glasses today (apparently, her old glasses were a bit nondescript—two people hadn't even realized she wore them!) but she may need to get them re-checked. Seems she missed taking photos of Greeta's grandson and Geraldine's exploration of complimentary colors. Sorry about that! Next week for sure.

Meanwhile, our exploration of paint media continues, inspired by last week's guest, Johannah Silva from Winsor & Newton's Artist Outreach program. The medium of the day? Gum Arabic. Yes, Ken's been working with it for nearly a year, but now Elaine O is interested too. See below to find out more about gum arabic and see a head-to-head paint-off—quite literally!

But first, enjoy our art circle.


As promised, it's time to talk about Gum Arabic, Medium of the Day.
First of all, what it it? It's actually an organic substance made from sap from acacia trees. Gum arabic is already used in watercolors as a binder. But if you can't get enough in your paint, you can buy more in separate bottles. You add a little to your paint wash or your paint water (it's best not to use full strength straight from the bottle as it will crack and become brittle) to obtain the following effects:
  • slow the drying time of your paint
  • increase transparency and gloss, making colors more brilliant and luminous
  • reduce staining and make paint easy to lift
Look above at Ken's last three plaids and Elaine O's diptych, all of which use gum arabic. Ken's been pre-wetting his paper with a gum arabic solution for nearly a year now. His colors are definitely deeper and richer than without. He's also added it to his paint and found the paint "moves differently".
Elaine O is experimenting with gum arabic too. She's doing a side-by-side paint-off—same subject, same paints applied in the same way at the same intensity. Only difference? the baby to the right is painted with gum arabic. The paper was pre-wet and a slightly diluted coat of gum arabic was floated on one half. From there on, everything is the same. Notice the deeper colors? the more distinct brush strokes? More blooming, less blending. That side also took longer to dry and, if you look at the side view below, you'll notice a varnish-like gloss to the gum arabic side. It seems to occur most prominently at edges.
Keep watching to see how the experiment progresses, get our opinion of the medium and how (or if) we plan to keep using it.
Notice the gloss on the upper baby? Gum arabic!
Happy painting and see you next week!